Going in circles – top women cyclists to compete in Breck crit for Saturn event | SummitDaily.com

Going in circles – top women cyclists to compete in Breck crit for Saturn event

Shauna Farnell

BRECKENRIDGE – While some of the best male cyclists in the country are grinding up seven mountain passes, over 140 miles of paved and dirt roads in the Saturn Classic Saturday, top female cyclists will compete for a large cash purse in the Nicole Reinhart criteriums in the Town of Breckenridge.

According to Saturn race director Len Pettyjohn, women are excluded from the Classic because organizers simply don’t have the resources to simultaneously conduct two races of that caliber.

“There’s no race this long anywhere in the world for women,” Pettyjohn said. “Logistically, it’s not remotely possible. That’s why there’s a separate women’s Tour de France. Nobody has the capacity to do two major courses on the same roads at the same time. We’re using every police vehicle we can get right now. We’re using everybody, even bringing people in from outside of Colorado.”

Pettyjohn put down races like those in the U.S. National Championships, where the majority of hype is centered around the first American finisher rather than the No. 1 finisher, who is typically European. Likewise, he pointed out, co-ed races tend to put the glory of top women finishers on the backburner. No matter how her time compare to other pros in her field, the top woman’s time rarely measures up to the top man’s.

“I don’t want to diminish the women,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s some women that could ride as well, if not better, than some men in the race. But it doesn’t favor the women at all. Even if the top woman beat 110 guys, I wouldn’t want anyone looking at the top overall time and saying, “Oh look, she got stomped.'”

The Saturn Classic is also untimely for most of the nation’s top female cyclists, as a large majority of them are currently competing in the women’s Tour de France, which is receiving far less international attention than the men’s Tour de France.

For those women who do make it to Breckenridge for the Nicole Reinhart criterium, some substantial cash prizes are in store. A prize of $1,000 cash will be awarded to the first-place finisher, as opposed to $200 to the winner of the men’s category 3 criterium. (The men’s prizes for the Classic race are considerably more substantial, with the top finisher receiving a new Saturn VUE, the second-place finisher receiving $10,000, the third $6,000 … all the way down to the 20th finisher, who will receive $600).

The crits are named after the top women’s finisher in the inaugural 2000 event. Reinhart, one of America’s top cyclists, was killed later that season when she hit a tree on a descent in a race in Boston. Although the prize money is substantial for the 45-minute women’s criterium, participation is slim.

“I think a lot of women are intimidated because a bunch of the Saturn (Team) women come to race,” Pettyjohn said. “But, almost all the top American women are racing in the Tour de France right now. That hurts us. I’ve been trying to promote women’s cycling for years. I mean, there’s $5,000 in prize money, that’s the biggest prize list in the state. Why money and the adventure of this event don’t draw more women, I don’t know. It’s depressing to us. We’d like to see more women race.”

Last year’s winner, Dede Demet Barry of Boulder, whose husband rides for the U.S. Postal team, is competing in the Tour herself this year, and will miss the Saturn crit. Amy Jamison of Dillon and Leah Reeves of Silverthorne were the only local women to compete in last year’s event, with Jamison taking 15th, and Reeves finishing 23rd.

The Nicole Reinhart women’s criterium begins at 2:45 p.m. Saturday at Main Street and Blue River Plaza. Any Cat 1 and 2 women cyclists interested in competing are encouraged to do so. Registration will begin at 7 a.m. at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. For more information, visit http://www.saturncyclingclassic.com.

Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at sfarnell@summitdaily.com.

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